Designing your Garden

By Shelly Garner

My garden is always a work in progress.  Every year we add more things, take away what doesn’t work and move stuff around.  Don’t be afraid to try new things, if it doesn’t work for you, someone else is always willing to take what you don’t want.  A few years ago, when I planted my first herb garden, it drove me crazy, partly because I didn’t know the plants well and partly because I felt an obligation to reap what I had sown.  I felt guilty if I didn’t use it and I have since learned, that as long as I enjoy what I’m looking at, I need not feel guilty if I don’t use it all before freeze up.

   One thing I try to do in my yard is to divide it up into sections or rooms.  I have sun areas, shade areas, vegetable garden, herb garden, water garden, play area and an area for storage and parking.  I find if you do this, then weeding and caring for the yard can be broken up and is not such a heavy workload.  You can even set aside certain days of the week for specific sections of the yard to be cared for.

When first designing your yard, make sure to suit it to your personality.

If you are a perfectionist, then you might want to plant something fairly formal, which takes a lot of upkeep.  Formal or classical gardens incorporate straight lines, sharp angles and symmetry in form, as in clipped hedges or walls to define different space.  There is also the cottage garden where plants are placed rather haphazardly with each other.  Most cottage gardens are made up of old-fashioned hollyhocks, roses, cosmos, etc.  Another type of garden is the natural garden, where you try to blend with nature as much as possible, using wildflowers, drought resistant plants to conserve water and native species of grasses, etc.

   Many things are available for incorporating into your garden plan: arbors, outdoor furniture, planters, lighting, statues, water features, etc.  And, just like designing your interior, a lot of these things can be moved about to get a feel for where they should be and to compliment the permanent aspects of your yard.  Containers for planting are great for that reason.  If you don’t like it in one spot or the plants aren’t doing well, move it somewhere else and see how you like it or how it does there.

   I have a combination type of garden, incorporating many aspects of different types of gardens.  I try not to use chemicals and I compost my waste products.  I know there will always be a certain number of bugs and birds, but I figure I probably have enough in my yard to share some with them.

   It takes a few years to build up a good selection of plants, unless you have a ton of money to put out at one time.  I give away many plants every year as a lot of perennials reproduce quickly.  Ask your friends with established gardens what they have left over.  I have probably started at least three other yards, which are now well established themselves.

   If you are starting from scratch, you will want to plant some trees for shade, appearance, or fruit.  Definitely plan ahead.  Don’t plant too close to buildings, think of where you’d like the shade, the positioning of the sun at what times of the day, where the leaves are going to fall, do you want to pick fruit and preserve it, all things you need to think about.  If you have children, don’t forget to leave space for their play area.

Remember the basics of design while placing items in your yard:

  • Color-harmony
  • Line or flow
  • Shape or form
  • Size
  • Space
  • Texture
  • Always check if your plants are hardy for your zone (in South Saskatchewan we are Zone 3) and if they like sun or shade.

A good garden is one where everyone can enjoy themselves and the fruits of their labour, albeit literally or figuratively, or perhaps both, as in my case.